BOISE, Idaho — From the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic to a school shooting in eastern Idaho to the accidentally-viral bio of KTVB's Mark Johnson, there was plenty of news to go around this year.
Here are the top-read stories on our website in 2021.
In the West, fire is part of the summer landscape, and Idaho is no exception. From the remote Boundary Fire that burned inside the Frank Church Wilderness to the Dixie-Jumbo Fire that burned nearly 73 square miles near Elk City to Oregon's devastating Bootleg Fire, we kept you up to date with the latest on wildfires burning around the region.
An Idaho lawmaker ignited a firestorm of controversy in March when he voted against accepting federal grant money to help prepare Gem State kids for kindergarten on the grounds that early childhood education would make it easier for mothers to work outside of the home.
Rep. Charlie Shepherd, a Republican from Pollock, was one of 36 legislators to vote against the measure. But it was his justification for the 'no' vote that caused a stir.
"I don't think anybody does a better job than mothers in the home, and any bill that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child, I don't think that's a good direction for us to be going," Shepherd said.
The comments, along with the bill's failure to advance, drew dozens of protestors to the Idaho Statehouse.
Shepherd later apologized for his statement, saying he had intended to pay mothers a compliment and adding, "I failed miserably."
As in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic dominated headlines across Idaho this year. Despite the rollout of vaccines to prevent the illness, Idaho's vaccination rate remained relatively low, leading to thousands of COVID-19 deaths and a wave of sick people overwhelming area hospitals.
In addition to infection and death, doctors in the Treasure Valley also had to face off against misinformation about COVID-19 and the safety of vaccines.
St. Luke's Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Souza spoke with KTVB to set the record straight on coronavirus myths and misinformation.
Two students and a custodian were shot when a sixth-grader opened fire at Rigby Middle School. Investigators say the girl pulled a handgun from her backpack and began shooting the morning of May
Math teacher Krista Gneiting is credited with disarming the shooter and hugging her until police arrived and took her into custody.
All three victims were treated for their wounds and survived.
Jefferson School District Superintendent Chad Martin called the violence "the worst nightmare a school district could encounter."
Dr. Ryan Cole, who operates a testing center in Garden City, has been criticized for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, including dissuading people from getting vaccinated and touting the anti-parasite drug ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.
Following a presentation to the Idaho Legislature - and a resultant backlash - Cole double down on his claims that the COVID-19 vaccine was unsafe, but argued to KTVB that he was not an anti-vaxxer.
Number 5: 9 cars involved in fiery I-84 crash
A chain-reaction of crashes killed one woman and blocked Interstate 84 for hours in Boise May 11.
Idaho State Police say the wreck happened after a car swerved into a lumber truck, which hit the median and caught fire, leading to more collisions.
Four people in total were taken to area hospitals, including 27-year-old Julia Goodwin of Boise, who died days after the crash. Police said flying debris hit the roof of her Toyota during the pileup, causing her injuries.
Number 4: Mark Johnson
2021 was the year of Mark Johnson. After the longtime KTVB anchor's bio was accidentally sent out from the Channel Seven Twitter account with just the words "Mark Johnson," the tweet - and the man - went enormously viral. The message received thousands of retweets and likes, spurred celebrity mentions, and became a trending topic on Twitter, much to the delight of the real Mark Johnson.
Mark retired from KTVB this month after a three-decade career at KTVB.
Two people were killed and five others - including a police officer - were hurt when a man opened fire in the Boise Towne Square Mall in October.
Those who died were 26-year-old mall security guard Jo Acker of Caldwell and 49-year-old Roberto Padilla Arguelles of Rupert, who was shopping at the mall.
The shooter, who police say had had multiple previous run-ins with law enforcement, died after a shootout with police in the parking lot.
"I cannot stress enough how traumatic this event is for the community at large, as well as for those who are witnesses or the families of those who were involved or were involved themselves," Chief Ryan Lee said.
The prospect of hitting it big in the lottery captured Idahoans' imaginations this year. Powerball announced changes to the game beginning in August of 2021, raising ticket prices to $3 and adding a third draw night.
Powerball officials said the changes were aimed at generating larger jackpots. The odds of winning a Powerball jackpot remained the same following the changes.
The game generates $9 million in revenue for Idaho schools annually, lottery officials say.
Number 1: Idaho cop mocks LeBron James in TikTok
An Idaho police officer lost his job after a mocking TikTok video he made in response to a tweet from NBA star LeBron James went viral.
After James tweeted calling for accountability for the officers who shot and killed 16-year-old Ma'Khai Bryant in Ohio, Nate Silvester, who worked for the Marshal's Office in Bellevue, posted a video in which he pretends to talk to the basketball player while watching an imaginary stabbing take place.
"So you don't care if a Black person kills another Black person, but you do care if a white cop kills a Black person, even if he's doing it to save the life of another Black person," Silvester says in the TikTok video.
The Bellevue Marshal's Office released a statement denouncing the video, and Silvester was terminated from his position in May.